A few weeks ago we asked some of our histology students to write about how COVID has impacted their histology program. You can read their blog post here. This week we asked our educators from these programs the same questions. How has COVID changed the way you're teaching? What accommodations have been made and what were some of your biggest challenges.
UT Health San Antonio
Hello all, My name is Jennifer Hubbard and I have been asked to provide some input to the education side of the pandemic. I am currently the Histology Program Director for the NAACLS accredited program at UT Health San Antonio Department of Pathology. The recent COIVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the community and the education system in our area. The campus that we train on was limited to essential personnel only and individuals on the front line of the fight of the pandemic. We, as a Histology Training Program, are hospital based and require full time training on campus. Our students were already through their clinical rotations and had completed the examinations that were required of them before graduating. We did, however, have to have them study, submit emails and follow up with assignments and project completions from the safety of their homes the last month of training before doing so.
The students stayed on top of their requirements and successfully made it to the point of being capable techs. They did however, miss out on the graduation day events and sharing their special day with family and friends. We will continue to take on students to provide our communities with skilled and educated Histotechnicians. Social distancing, masks and other PPE requirements are in full effect as well as student interviews via Microsoft Teams. We will continue to adjust when needed to the safety standards that prove effective. We will train and be more diligent, making people aware of what and why we are essential to making lives better. We did make it a point that this is a real life occurrence and we are here to handle this pandemic as professionals and for the greater good of our community and surrounding areas. We as Histotechnicians are the front line, the ones who show up to work and help when no one else is able. We get the results.
Community College of Baltimore County
Hello, I am Karen Bordenet, the Histotechnology Instructional Specialist at the Community College of Baltimore County and we have the only Associates (AAS) degree program in Maryland.
Our program begins in the spring semester, so my first-year students were about halfway through the semester when COVID-19 shut our campus down. Spring break was moved up so the instructors could convert lecture and lab to an online environment. Zoom was implemented for lecture classes and it was a learning experience for all of us. We have an on-site laboratory so our students were able to complete the embedding module and we were halfway through the microtomy module when this occurred. I assigned projects in place of the second half of the laboratory portion for a comparable lab experience.
Our students were disappointed that they were not able to complete the “hands on” part of the laboratory portion. I kept in touch with them during the semester to address their concerns and assure them that we will see it through. They have this summer off. We will be back on campus for fall classes in a brand-new health building with a dedicated histology laboratory with 7 embedding and microtomy stations. I have found that in person classes work so much better. Students bounce ideas off of each other, agree or disagree with answers, and come in early to review with each other on test days.
Our clinical sites have given our program exceptional support and the students will be going out to the sites in September. The students will go to four different sites during the program. I do want to give a shout out to the clinical sites. Without them we would not have a program. They are aware that the students didn’t gain as much lab experience as they would have preferred, so before going to their first site, the students will have the opportunity to practice their skills at the campus lab.
My second-year students are finishing up their Capstone class including extensive review for the registry exam and they will graduate at the end of July. We are meeting in person using social distancing which is working out very well. Instead of going out to the final rotation, I developed a virtual clinical rotation.
So, for me personally as a Histotechnology instructor, it has been challenging but not overwhelming. It’s been challenging because I’ve had to be creative in presenting the material. I designed additional assignments in lieu of lab and clinicals. I learned how to use Zoom and my students have been patient and great through this confinement. I’ve had some admirable participation during Zoom lectures as we would have had in person. I’ve reached out to other Histotechnology programs to share ideas. I am mindful that COVID-19 has affected my students on various levels and often take time to check on them, offering support and comfort that I’m just an email away. I feel as an instructor, as long as you are flexible, a cheerleader, and wear a smile under your mask, we will walk across the finish line together. It’s been a hiccup not a hurdle.